August 14, 2017 8:38:15 PM
SCOOBA - East Mississippi Community College sophomore Timorrius Conner didn't receive a new car.
Instead, he has received the keys to something else just as precious.
Early Monday, in the preseason National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) rankings, the EMCC football team was picked No. 2. Later in the day, at the school's Media Day, head coach Buddy Stephens confirmed Conner would be the starting quarterback when the season opens Aug. 31 against Jones Junior College in Scooba.
"This job is made easy because of the talent we have all over the offense," Conner said. "Getting the nod is like a dream come true. It's special that is for sure. We have a great offense. My job is to make sure the ball gets in the hands of my receivers. The group of receivers are always talented. They make the quarterbacks look good."
Typically, EMCC has a Division I transfer move into the starting role at quarterback. This past season, former Florida State player De'Andre Johnson guided EMCC to an 11-1 record and a No. 2 finish before moving on to Florida Atlantic.
Instead, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Conner takes over the top spot after serving a backup to Johnson and Vijay Miller. Miller signed a professional baseball contract during the summer and chose to end his football career.
"(Conner) is going to be the quarterback for right now," Stephens said. "We have other guys vying for the spot. Each of them bring mobility. Each of them bring really good arms. They all bring leadership. This is still a work in progress. The quarterback position is important to us. It makes our offense go."
The roster also includes Pearl River Central High School freshman Wyatt Davis and Houma, Louisiana freshman Daquirs Griffin.
Conner said learning from both Johnson and Miller was a great experience a year ago. Miller played mainly in short-yardage situations.
"It's a challenge to play on this level so it was good to have an adjustment period," Conner said. "I learned so much last season. I learned what it takes to be successful on this level. I learned about the drive and passion you have to have. As a quarterback, I am used to being a leader. However, this is different, because you have so many great players from all over the country. You have to play with the passion that you belong. You have to carry yourself well because you are the leader of the team."
Conner led Noxubee County to back-to-back Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A state championships in 2014 and 2015. Conner threw for 6,904 yards and 64 touchdowns in his final three varsity seasons.
"You just want to surround yourself with winners," Stephens said. "You want your quarterback to be a winner. You want him to lead by example based on the success that he has had in the past. This is a unique situation where (Conner) was already with us for a year. Of course, De'Andre was also in the program for two seasons. He gained a lot by being able to watch that first year. The same can be said for (Conner)."
EMCC will also be breaking in pair of new assistants on the offensive side of the ball. David Boykin is the new offensive coordinator, while former EMCC and Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is the new quarterbacks coach.
"Just excited to get started," Boykin said. "Over the years, this offense has put up a lot of points and a lot of yards. It's our job to continue that. The guys are working hard and have a great attitude. We just have to make sure players are in a position to make plays."
Conner already had a past with both new coaches.
"I was already familiar with both," Conner said. "My brother was coached by Coach Boykin in high school and he also played with (Wallace) in college. It has been a seamless transition. The offense hasn't changed at all. It's just a different style of coaching."
Arizona Western earned the preseason No. 1 nod Monday. Other Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College (MACJC) teams ranked included No. 6 Northwest Mississippi Community College, No. 9 Northeast Mississippi Community College, No. 11 Holmes Community College and No. 18 Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
EMCC looks for its fourth national championship this decade and first since 2014.
"This team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, both on offense and defense," Conner said. "We have a lot of Golden Triangle Area players on the team. The expectations are high around here. Coaches are expecting a lot out of us. This is a championship program. It has been a couple of years, so it's time to get back there."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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